Czechs have begun voting in a historic referendum on joining the European Union. Polls opened to the public at 2pm Friday. Among public figures who cast their ballots early in the afternoon were former president Vaclav Havel, who all along has indicated his support for the European Union, and current President Vaclav Klaus, who refrained from indicating this week which way he would cast his vote. Asked on Friday as he left the voting booth whether he would reveal his decision at last, the president had this to say:
"Definitely not. You know, I am absolutely sure my vote was the right one, and you may just guess."
Mr Klaus was also asked by journalists how he gauged the importance of the referendum for the Czech Republic overall:
"Well, it's an important moment in our effort to become, after thirteen years a normal, standard European country. In some respects the vote will be part of the whole process."
The polls close on Friday at 10pm local time. On Saturday they will reopen at 8am till 2pm, when final ballots must be cast. Unconfirmed results should be made available almost immediately after polls close. There is no minimum turnout needed for the referendum to be declared valid, but the vote is binding. If a majority of people vote "Yes" to joining the EU, there will be no need for the parliament to ratify accession. In the event of a "No" vote, the government can ask the president to hold a second referendum in two years' time. The latest opinion polls suggest that between 70 - 75 percent of those who come to the polls will vote for accession.
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